Researcher May Face Deportation Once Again

“This is another outrageous example of UC’s discriminatory behavior toward international postdoctoral scholars,” United Auto Workers Local 5810 President Xiaoqing Cao said in a statement. “Dr. Helen should not be denied due process just because she is an international worker.”

Wilda Helen, a 32-year-old postdoctoral researcher from Indonesia, wants to appeal her termination by presenting it to a neutral, third-party arbitrator to determine if the university has just cause for termination.

According to UAW Local 5810 representative Scott Clifthorne, UCSD labor relations advocate Belinda M. Hein will not work with any of the three arbitrators who are available the week of Feb. 21 for a hearing.

“She refuses to work with any of those three arbitrators despite the fact that they’re on the panel of 21 arbitrators that the university and the union have officially agreed upon,” Clifthorne said. “She did not explain her reasoning.”

With the union’s collective bargaining agreement — which has allowed both U.S. and international postdoctoral researchers the right to appeal since summer 2010 — if both parties do not agree on an arbitrator, they will go through a list to choose one in a mutual strike process.

“There’s still time to do the right thing here,” Clifthorne said. “There are arbitrators willing to hear this now, and it’s highly unusual to get three arbitrators all with time and willingness to hear the case in a single week. For the university to take the position that they can’t work with any of them, it all just drives home the perception to the UAW and lots of the international scholars that work at the university that they’re just trying to force her out of the country where she doesn’t have a chance to face her accusers and the allegations they made.”

UAW Local 5810 is a union that represents 6,000 postdoctoral researchers in the UC system. On Feb. 17, Helen and Clifthorne went to Chancellor Marye Anne Fox’s office to ask for her help. According to Clifthorne, Fox said that UC human resources vice president Dwaine Duckett not she, had the authority to direct Klein. Clifthorne said he then informed Fox that UC labor relations director Gayle Saxton said the case will be handled by UCSD.

“This issue of who to select the arbitrator [and] who has the authority on this issue has been remanded to the UC San Diego campus,” Clifthorne said.

According to Clifthorne, Fox said she was not aware of this and would get back to UAW the next day.
On Feb. 17, Helen and another UAW representative visited the Chancellor’s office again to clarify the issue. According to Clifthorne, they were then directed to leave the office by Vice Chancellor of Resource Management and Planning Gary C. Matthews, who contacted campus police.

“We did end up talking to Chancellor Fox [who] told Wilda and the campus [UAW] recording secretary David Selby that the Labor Relations Office was handling this,” Clifthorne said. “She wasn’t going to interfere.”

Administrators involved in the case could not be reached. University Communications released a statement saying that the university will follow the pre-determined arbitration selection process.

If the hearing were to go forward, Clifthorne said it would take place whether Helen is here or not.

“The hearing will happen whether Wilda is in the United States or not,” Clifthorne said. “We believe very, very strongly that she should be present for the hearing because that’s what due process is. She has the right to face her accusers.”

Helen wants to contest the false allegations her termination was based on.

“She wants to face the people in front of a neutral third-party arbitrator and have the opportunity to prove these allegations are wrong,” Clifthorne said.

When Helen was terminated, the university erased her record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, which made her unable to legally remain in the U.S.
Clifthorne said the university can re-enter her record on SEVIS.

“That’s obviously still an option,” Clifthorne said. “The university could decide to reverse the deletion of her SEVIS record and allow her to stay in the country on unpaid leave… That would require the university doing the right ting and taking action to help Wilda stay here, which once again they have refused to do for her.”
Helen and union representatives will continue contacting the Chancellor.

“From our perspective, Chancellor Fox has the authority to change the current process and to direct Belinda to pick one of these arbitrators,” Clifthorne said. “We’re going to continue to work with Chancellor Fox to do the right thing.”

Readers can contact Regina Ip at [email protected]. 

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